There’s this exercise that I used to do in university called “Peaks and Valleys”. We would do it during our Alternative Break trips at the beginning of our daily reflection sessions – which were usually at the end of the day.
Each person would take turns listing their ‘peak’ and their ‘valley’ for the day. The peaks would be things that stood out as a positive impact on their day, while the valleys would be things that were not particularly so.
The activity was a pretty good way for us all to re-center ourselves at the end of the day. Oftentimes many people would have the same valleys (hey, remember that time our van got stuck in the mud?), so it was a way for us to share some common ground. However, there were many times where we would find different things to attach certain emotions to – sometimes one person’s peak was another’s valley, and vice versa. It was truly a great way to encourage empathy and understanding, as well as a way for us all to practice what we preach in our own little reflection circle.
This past week I got to experience some literal peaks and valleys, as well as some figurative ones.
On Sunday, I embarked on half a day’s adventure to the top of Le Chasseron, which is one of the highest peaks in the Swiss Jura mountains.
One. Of. The. Highest. Peaks.
But first, some geographical and historical context:
The Jura mountain range is shared by both France and Switzerland, and it lies north of the legendary Alps. Because this range is a lot older than it’s young, shiny, new neighbour to the south, it is not as high (hello natural forces of erosion).
However, the Jura mountain range lent its name to the Jurassic period. So, I guess you could say that’s pretty cool.
Madison and I began our day by walking over to C + N’s house (I introduced you to them in my previous post). From there, the family and us drove 20 minutes, crossed the French-Swiss border, passed some quaint historic Swiss towns, and parked the vehicles. We then started our ascent.
Within moments, we could hear a faint but consistent clanging in the distance. What was it, you ask?
And the thing is, the higher up we went, the more cows we saw. It was quite amoosing.
Yes, that was a cow pun.
Yes, I’m really going to milk this thing for what it’s worth. 🙂
My new cow friends were just casually doing their cow thing, chomping on grass, their digestive juices working hard in those 4 stomachs of theirs.
It was really cute, because no matter where we were – if you listened close enough – you could hear the sweet, sweet clanging of cow bells on the gentle breeze.
Anyways, back to the whole mountain thing.
So we were steadily (and slowly, in my case) making our way up the mountain. People below were getting significantly smaller, my heartbeat was going significantly faster, and the air was getting significantly thinner.
During our climb, N told us about the history of the area (en français, bien sûr), some geography tidbits, and we were even treated to some stellar impressions of the various different French accents (omg this man is a gem).
As we stopped to eat the picnic lunch we packed, our view of the valley below was shared by more of our bovine friends. We ate our sandwiches, listening to more bells – which were ringing as they looked for yet another juicy patch of grass to nibble on.
Apparently, on a clear day, you can begin to make out the Swiss Alps in the distance from the height we were at.
Yes, that’s right – you could see other mountains from the mountains we were on.
(But unfortunately, the clouds were covering the Alps and we couldn’t see them.)
Hours later, we finally reached the top of Le Chasseron. My legs and lungs were on fire, but that fire was quickly extinguished by the view. My goodness, the view.
Being on top of the mountain was obviously my ‘peak’, but looking down into the gentle curves of the valleys and the shadows of the forests was a good reminder of the importance of perspective.
When I’m on the ground, gazing up at the face of a mountain, it seems so menacing and insurmountable. However, when I’m at the top, peering down into the valleys, everything seems so insignificant in comparison.
It feels like being free to fly, but also knowing that the very same forces that enable flight can also encourage a sense of overwhelming fear.
One of the most common fears is acrophobia (fear of heights), but even some people who have this valid fear are able to admire the grandiose charm of snow-capped mountains. For me, mountains instill a sense of wonder, and while my feelings in the valleys are different from those at the peaks, my heart still aches with the depth and breadth of the beauty this whole experience – life, climbing mountains, new experiences – entails.
So I guess by now you’ve probably figured out that Le Chasseron was one of my peaks this week.
But what of my valleys?
I think that I was really bummed about being without reliable WiFi. I know that in an earlier post I mentioned how liberating it was, but I know now that it was also a little lonely. By not being able to check-in with family and loved ones back home, I felt like a part of me was missing. I wouldn’t name this feeling homesickness, but I probably wouldn’t go so far as to expel that from the realm of possibilities either.
However, now that internet has graced our appartment with it’s presence, I’m finding myself trying to find other ways to occupy my time than just to incessantly scroll through my social media and watch Buzzfeed videos.
That being said, I would like to amend my statement about a lack of internet being my valley. I think my real valley has been the realization of my dependence on internet in order to feel connected.
Without wifi, I wouldn’t have been able to ask my mom for her recipe for daal and achieve such prompt results. Without wifi, I wouldn’t have been able to wish my aunt a happy birthday. Without wifi, I wouldn’t have been able to video call my partner and watch as he drank his morning cup of coffee while I snuggled in a bed still warm from my late-afternoon nap.
All of these tender moments were made possible by wifi, and I find myself glorifying them because they are shared with people I am familiar with. But I also have to remember that in order to form new relationships, I have to be willing to step away from the wifi.
Tenderness exists everywhere, and while the internet is great (this post wouldn’t be possible without it!), it’s also important that there is a life outside of the blogosphere/newsfeed/chatroom.
So, see you next time!